Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Priscilla Queen of the Desert : review by Gemma Clark

Three ripped men in inch thick slap, prancing around to 70s and 80s disco tunes, in skirts short enough to make your maddest aunt blush, might not sound like everyone’s lime daiquiri. And if you are that person, then you are missing out on one of the most hilarious and glamorous shows ever performed on stage! (Think Rocky Horror Picture Show without the horror)

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is riotous tale of three drag queens on a journey across the Australian outback and practically explodes with sex, excess and exuberance from the opening curtain to the final, feathered flounce.

Tick/Mitzi (Duncan James – yes, the one from Blue), Bernadette (Simon Green) and Adam/Felicia (Adam Bailey) traverse Australia from Sydney to Alice Springs, in a battered bus they christen ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, in order to reconnect with Tick’s estranged wife and, unbeknown to his companions, son.

The journey sees them encounter homophobia and emotional struggles as well as finding missing pieces of themselves in the barren landscape of the Aussie outback, all the while maintaining a very risqué humour – be warned, this is not suitable for young ears. It was all dirty, but inoffensive. So unless you want your kids to be making some very homoerotic, suggestive jokes, I’d leave them at home.

The whole thing reeks of camp and gay and glitter and glam and it’s wonderful. Hits such as ‘Girls Just Wana Have Fun’, ‘It’s Raining Men’ and a generous handful of Kylie’s back catalogue have the audience singing and clapping along. Not just a delight for the nostalgic heart, it’s a feast for the eyes as, in its’ seven worldwide performances it has boasted over 500 costumes, 200 head pieces and 100 wigs, not to mention thousands of feathers. It’s arguable as to whether the performers, their costumes or the pimped out Priscilla is the star of the show.

Priscilla 9211 Photo by Paul Coltas (1)

As for the leading men (or women, given that they were dressing in various delightfully eccentric items of drag for the majority of the show and Bernadette is, in fact, playing a transsexual woman), they are magnificent as a unit. Always in sync, always on point with their dance numbers, you would never be able to tell that they were anything other than the best of friends.

Duncan James sets the tone for things to come with his opening scene, tearing open his sparkly dressing gown to reveal a tiny pair of pants and an impossibly toned body. Every female and gay man in the house was swooning. Even from the balcony I couldn’t miss those abs! While his pecks were on point, there were times when his voice was not. His low tones were rich and delicious, but his deep voice struggled to reach the higher notes and across the board with all the performers, some of the pronounciation was lost to the higher seats.

Simon Green does Terrance Stamp proud in his portrayal of ageing transsexual Bernie, portraying her with the elegance of a seasoned, demure performer, whilst not losing any of that tongue-in-cheek humour that makes this show so heart-warmingly funny.

Young Adam Bailey does an excellent job of playing man-child, camp as hell Felicia, gleefully prancing around the stage in varying stages of undress, interspersed with knee length Barbie trousers and all manner of glittering ensembles. His vocals are surely a talent to watch for in the future, belting out an impressive solo number that brought the house down.

While the stars of the show were undoubtedly a winning trio, the best voices were from the ‘Divas’, a trio of glamorous ladies who periodically appeared on stage to supply additional vocals and story. They were Beyonce, Mariah and Whitney, squeezed into shiny, silver fishtail dresses.

It’s difficult to decide what the best part of the show was. Was it the incredible attention to detail on the extravagant costumes? Was it the audience participation? Was it the witty banter? Honestly, it is probably all of the above, made all the more adorable by the shameless campness that coloured every word and every song, every dance and every costume.

If you ever get even half the chance to see it, grab it with both hands. You will not be disappointed. Strap yourselves in, Priscilla is on the road again! On at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre from no until April 2nd.